Retailers and the Government are worried Australians have slammed their wallets shut and gone on a spending strike.
Economists are blaming wage rises below inflation at around just two per cent and a shifting of the tax burden for putting new pressure on household budgets.
So, what can be done? For many households, it’s time to go into survival mode, and that means opening up a new spreadsheet and creating the ultimate budgeting guide.
Here are our suggestions to get you started:
Mortgage or rent
This is probably your major expense so this is a good place to start. If you rent, scout the market and make an assessment. Could you be saving if you move? Do you really need that extra bedroom which is rarely used? If you have a mortgage, embrace the refinancing movement. Rates might be going up but for the banks it’s a competitive market. They want your business. If you are paying more than 4 percent you shouldn’t be.
Pay them off and cut them up. Easier said than done of course, but if you’re in trouble with cards think about a personal loan to consolidate your debt, or roll it over onto a new card with an interest free period.
Most of us really don’t know how much we spend on groceries. To get a handle on budgeting, track your grocery purchases carefully and then do an audit. Did you really need to buy all that chocolate? Wouldn’t a less expensive icecream or cut of meat have tasted just as good. Be realistic, be ruthless. You can save money on groceries without compromising your lifestyle.
Lunch at work
It’s simple – take your own. Buying your lunch at work just eats into your take home pay. Cut back on coffee drinking. One less coffee a day is around $30 saved over a week.
Here’s where so many of us blow it. Cigarettes? Expensive and bad for you. Alcohol? It’s fun but most of us could cut back. And instead of a cocktail, how about a beer or a glass of wine, it’s probably half the price. Eating out and takeaway is another area where households can save. Think about it. You could probably cook dinner and have it on the table in the time it takes to drive up to the local Thai place. It might not be as tasty, but it would be cheaper. And while you’re at it, buy $10 wine instead of $20 or more. You won’t notice the difference – after that first glass!
If you are a two car household, do you need to be? Are you running an expensive car when you could sell it and buy something for half the price which would work just as well? Are you driving to work and spending money on fuel and tolls when you could be taking public transport? And what about that pushbike in the shed, gathering dust? Everyone needs to get around, and efficient transport is essential, but surely there’s fat to be trimmed here too.
We all love them, a lot of us live for them. Instead of the grand overseas tour, think local for a change. Instead of 5 Star Hotels, swap it for a tent for this year at least.
Rein in that shoe fetish, and control your lust for top brands. Give yourself a strict clothes budget. If you want the look, get a cheap knock off. They are a fraction of the price and most people won’t know it’s a fake. You can enjoy saving money and enjoy fooling others at the same time.
How much are you paying again? Measure that against how often you go. Make a hard call on whether its worth it and…take a walk or a run instead.
Get a job – I mean ANOTHER job
All of the above is about limiting money going out. But there is plenty you can do to increase money in. A big garage sale, a market stall or an eBay selling frenzy clears out the house and puts money in your pocket. That spare room? Meet new people and make some money through short term rent. Put your car to work as an Uber driver. Join a research panel and be paid for your opinions.
Let’s help each other through this. Tell us your favourite savings tips and we’ll pass them on each week.